Group fitness is on the rise in Louisville

September 30, 2018

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Zero.

That’s the number of people Jason Kelly knew when he moved to Louisville five years ago from Tampa, Florida. But Kelly wasn’t worried. He had a plan that would help him meet a group of like-minded friends and — though he didn’t know it at the time — his future wife.

His solution? Running.

“I travel a lot and I always look for social run groups in different cities,” the 34-year-old said. “So when I moved to Louisville, I started the Derby City Run Club as a way to meet other runners who also like to socialize.”

The first meeting of the Derby City Run Club in 2013 was held at Fourth Street Live and attracted nine runners. But it was a start, and as word started to spread, the club began to grow.

“Today it’s pretty typical for 30 to 60 people to show up and now instead of just one day, we meet on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at three different bars around the city,” Kelly said.

Running or exercising as a group isn’t just about meeting people. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Social Sciences found that the people we hang around influence our own exercise behaviors, including consistency, motivation, duration and inspiration.

In short — working out with others might make you more accountable for your own fitness and you’re more likely to reap long term benefits.

As for the social side — well, that more than paid off for Kelly.

“I met my wife, Callie, through the club and we’ve had a few other marriages that have resulted from people who met each other here,” he said.

While Kelly’s story might seem rare, it’s not totally uncommon. Communal fitness often results in lifelong friendships and in some cases, relationships like Kelly’s.

But a chance at love isn’t the only reason why you should consider taking up group fitness. Here’s a handful of reasons why you should strap on your sneakers and give it a shot.

Group training is becoming more and more popular, evident by the numerous cycling studios, CrossFit classes, dance-based aerobics, bootcamp-style workouts and running and cycling groups that have popped up around Louisville.

One of the reason is, frankly, it’s just more fun to work out with others to achieve a common goal.

Take the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program. Started in 1988, Team in Training is now the largest charity endurance training program in the world with 650,000 athlete participants who have raised over $1 billion to fight cancer.

Participants train in groups as they raise funds and prepare for endurance challenges like marathons, bike treks, Ironman triathlon and high-elevation mountain climbs.

“A team offers an invaluable support group that gets each of us through tough times that would often result in quitting or falling short,” said Elissa Withrow, a Team in Training member from Louisville. “Running partners remind us we’re not crazy to battle harsh conditions, work out during odd hours, or when we take on high mileage. I am 100 percent more successful when I run with a team.”

A 2012 study by the Society of Behavioral Medicine showed that working with a partner, especially in a team format, improved performance, doubling the workout time of those who exercised alone.

“Inspiration comes to me from not one person, but a collective of people who strive to better themselves by helping others,” said Tom Knepshield, another Louisville Team in Training member. “Together we just seem to be stronger. Together we can combine our skills to complete something beyond our own individual abilities.”

People either love running — or they hate it. But running clubs are a great way to meet people who have a shared interest.

Parkrun, a group that was started in the United Kingdom and now has groups all over the world, aims to “rally the community together and promote healthy living by offering free, timed, weekly 5Ks in the same spot every week,” said Natalie DeRatt, local organizer of Parkrun. “There are no entry fees and we call it a ‘run’ instead of a ‘race’ to ensure everyone participates however they like.”

So whether you run a mile in 5 minutes or 15, Parkrun is there to brings runners and walkers of all ages together for a shared experience.

Like the Derby City Run Club, DeRatt said Parkrun is gaining momentum and attracting not only participants who live in the city, but also visitors.

“When we first started, eight people came out but we’ve now had as many as 69,” said DeRatt. “And we’re seeing a range of abilities and age groups over the weeks.”

Early this month, two runners from a Parkrun group in England took part. A runner from Australia has also stopped by, she said.

(If you are interested in Parkrun, register online and print out a personal barcode. Runners bring the barcode to the park each Saturday when they run. Volunteers staff each run and pictures from the week are posted on Flickr, which adds to the shared community fitness experience.)

Any kind of exercise is good, but it’s clear the fitness community in Louisville has recognized there is strength in numbers.

“I was introduced to our core group by my sister, and I am so glad they chose me as a forever running mate,” says longtime Louisville runner Carmen Pantoja-Evans. “We know so much about one another. We feel each other’s pain, and we celebrate one another’s accomplishments.”

Solo or in a group, the way we choose to exercise is a very personal thing. But with mounting evidence pointing to the benefits of a group dynamic, it might be time you took a look at what’s going on in your neighborhood. A couple of friends or an organized group could add an extra boost to your route.

Like the African proverb reminds us, “If you want to run fast, go alone. If you want to run far, go with others.”


Information from: Courier Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com

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